A Good Walk Not Spoiled

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 10, 2008, 5:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.

WHAT AN ADVENTURE: The PGA Tours 2008 season wrapped up Sunday at Disney and so did D.J. Gregorys magical run or walk. Gregory made it to every Tour stop this year, walking every course.
Backspin Thats nearly 1,000 miles and well over 3,000 holes. If that doesnt impress you, consider that Gregory suffers from cerebral palsy and every step he takes is done so with considerable labor. The 30-year-old may have fallen, by his count, 29 times over the course of the year, but his inspiration was 10 fold that number.

PHIL THE FLIRT: Phil Mickelson, in China for the European Tours season-opening HSBC Champions, spoke with reporters early in the week about possibly joining the tour, mainly due to the lure of the cash being thrown around for the Race to Dubai.
Backspin While Mickelson ultimately said he would pass on becoming a member this season, he did intimate the chances are good for him doing so in the future. Said Mickelson: I think the biggest growth opportunity for the game of golf is internationally. Perhaps those are his sponsors talking, who would no doubt like him to spread their 'global footprint,' especially considering that his big four ' Barclays, Callaway Golf, accounting company KPMG and Exxon Mobile ' are trying to raise their profile all over the world. This, and because Phil also just likes to talk a lot.

AND THEY'RE OFF!: One week after the conclusion of their 2008 season, the European Tour commenced their 2009 edition with the HSBC Champions in China. Sergio Garcia survived five days worth of play, brought on by repeated inclement weather. In the process, the Spaniard passed Mickelson for No. 2 in the world.

Backspin This is the most anticipated season in tour history ' and not just because they have a fancy new logo. The Race to Dubai should provide year-long drama (most of the year, anyway). One of the big problems the tour has faced over recent years is a lack of big name players competing and winning. Garcia got the revitalized tour off to a great start ' even if its not really 2009 yet.

THAT'S A WRAP: The PGA Tour's Fall Series came to a close with Davis Love III winning the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic. Love closed with a bogey-free 8-under 64 to hold off Tommy Gainey by a single stroke.
Backspin It was strange to see a Hall of Fame candidate grinding it out during the Fall Series, but thats what Love said he needed to do. After undergoing ankle surgery 13 months ago, Love said the Fall Series was his chance to get back into a good rhythm ' and also to secure his card for the 2009 season. He did that and more. By securing his 20th Tour title, he is now a life-time member. As for runner-up Gainey, the tight finish almost became the biggest big break of his life. Needing a win to keep his card, he left nothing out on the course, making six back-nine birdies. And even though he fell short, the $496,800 second-place check was good enough to get him conditional status on tour for next season.

CART PATH ONLY: Erik Compton, granted the use of a golf cart for this past weeks event at Disney, made the cut before eventually settling into a tie for 60th.
Backspin Compton finished the event with a triple bogey-8 on the 72nd hole, but that was probably the only disappointment for the young man. Most golf fans are by now familiar with the fact that Compton is just six months removed from his second heart transplant and is in the midst of trying to make his way back to the PGA Tour. Admittedly emotionally and physically drained, Compton has little time for rest as he makes his way to the second stage of Q-School later this week.

CHANGES AT AUGUSTA!: Chairman Billy Payne announced this past week that there were changes being made at Augusta National. Turns out the changes were very minor, trimming just 10 yards from the course length.
Backspin Like it does every year, the course is evaluated and adjustments are made to ensure what the club believes will make for the best possible playing conditions. Most of the changes, albeit minor, were mainly made to give the club flexibility to move the tees in case of bad weather conditions. Recall that Trevor Immelman ' the winner this year ' shot a final-round 75 in very windy conditions.

PGA TOUR, HERE WE COME: The Nationwide Tour also wrapped up its season with Matt Bettencourt winning the Tour Championship with a birdie on the 72nd hole of regulation.
Backspin Not a bad ending for someone whose week began with kidney stones and a trip to the hospital. Not only did he win the tournament ' and its $180,000 first-place check ' but he also finished atop the tour's money list and earned his PGA Tour card for the upcoming season. We at Backspin know about kidney stones ' and will say the relief of passing one may be as great as earning your PGA Tour card.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The PGA of America announced that they were in no hurry to name the 2010 Ryder Cup captain ... Greg Norman and his son Greg Jr. won the ADT Golf Skills Challenge ... Ji-Yai Shin won the LPGA's Mizuno Classic in Japan.
Backspin Lately, the PGA of America had been in a hurry to name a new captain in part to get the bad taste out of their mouths and get the focus on the next Ryder Cup. With the recent U.S. victory, they apparently plan on savoring this one a little while ... Norman's son sealed the deal with a clutch shot on the final skills challenge for the win. Did we use the words 'clutch' and Norman' in the same sentence? ... You say you don't recognize the name Shin? Shame on you; she is this year's Women's British Open winner.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Children's Miracle Network Classic
  • Full Coverage ' Nationwide Tour Championship
  • Full Coverage ' HSBC Champions
  • Full Coverage ' Mizuno Classic
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”